exeter.lab at green2.greenpeace.org
exeter.lab at green2.greenpeace.org
Tue Aug 1 06:28:49 EDT 1995
Original-TO: hendee at aoml.erl.gov
Original-Cc: coral-list at reef.aoml.erl.gov
Dear Dr. Hendee,
Prof. Reinhold Leinfelder suggested we forward this
proposal to you on the Moruroa Atoll situation. As you can see we
are calling for a somewhat elaborate environmental impact study
before the tests resume. I wonder whether you would be interested
in supporting this initiative and passing this message on to any
of your colleagues who might be able to help in a final project
design, or indeed add any other elements to the programme. So far,
we have about 70 signatures from scientists interested in contrib
uting, ranging through physicists, geologists and biologists.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Greenpeace Research Laboratories,
University of Exeter,
North Park Road,
TELEPHONE: 44 1392 263917
FAX : 44 1392 263907
e-mail: Exeter.lab at Green2.greenpeace.org
Dear Fellow Scientists,
As you are no doubt aware, the French
Government intends to resume the testing of nuclear weapons in
the S. Pacific at Moruroa Atoll in September. We are writing to
you because we believe that such testing poses an unacceptable
risk, both now and in the future to human health and to the
wider environment. In addition, it poses a threat to nuclear non-
The implications of the planned testing programme have not been
examined in relation to the current condition of the test site.
Previous scientific missions, even with access to limited data,
have raised serious questions about the safety of teh testing
programme. We, therefore, believe that there is an urgent need to
carry out a thorough geological, hydrological, biological and
radiological assessment of the site in order to have a more
comprehensive understanding of the effects of past tests and the
likely impact of a resumption of the testing programme. This
needs to be carried out prior to any further testing.
Accordingly we are circulating with this letter the broad
outline of an independent work programme which we believe to
be a minimum required to establish the true situation. We
hope that you will be able to lend your support to this
programme and join the list of signatories that believe this
work to be essential. We intend to forward this to the French
Authorities in due course.
In addition, we are in the process of constructing a more detailed
work programme based around the general outline. If you have any
detailed suggestions for work which would improve the scope of the
proposed study or any additions or refinements to it we would be
very grateful to hear from you on this also. Again, the detailed
proposal will be submitted to the French Authorities.
We hope that you will feel able to lend us your support or
to contribute expertise to construct the detailed programme of
study. In addition, if you know of any other colleagues who would
also be prepared to lend their support, we would be very happy to
hear from them. Please contact Paul Johnston or David Santillo
at the address above, or alternatively through the Internet at
address: Exeter.lab at Green2.greenpeace.org
RATIONALE FOR A PROGRAMME OF STUDY TO ASSESS THE IMPACT OF FRENCH
NUCLEAR TESTING AT MORUROA AND FANGATAUFA
The president of France, M. Jacques Chirac has recently announced
that France intends to resume the testing of nuclear weapons at
Moruroa and Fangataufa Atolls in the South Pacific during Septem
ber. At the same time he has stated that the testing programme
carried out by France had no ecological consequences and that
independent scientists would be invited to observe the tests to
prove their safety.
Nonetheless, observation of the tests alone is simply not ade
quate as an overall assessment of the possible consequences of
resuming the testing regime. Very few data exist concerning the
impact upon the atolls and their environs of previous testing
programmes carried out at the sites. The data that do exist indi
cate grounds for serious concerns, both about the integrity
of the atoll structure and the containment of the radioactive
products of the weapons testing.
To date there have been more than 120 underground tests in these
locations. The degree to which the the fission products from these
tests will be contained within the structure of the atoll in the
long term is highly uncertain. Effectively, the two sites comprise
an unregulated dump for radioactive wastes from these explosions.
This has never been subjected to a full, independent evaluation.
Several scientific missions to the atolls, all of which have been
described as "exploratory" by the scientists concerned, have taken
place. A common theme to the conclusions reached in these studies
is a call for greater openess and constant vigilance at the test
sites. Moreover, the data produced by at least two of these
missions raise serious questions about the short and long term
containment of radioactivity within the atoll.
The scientists taking part in these misions were well respected
and of international stature. They were led by Haroun Tazieff,
Prof. H. Atkinson and Cmdr Jacques Cousteau respectively.
Nonetheless, time constraints and logistic restrictions severe
ly limited the scope of these studies and the information
obtained was, thus, in each case only of a preliminary nature.
Very little substantial information, therefore, has made its way
to the public or scientific communities as a result of the work.
Further, despite their limited and hence inconclusive nature,
the French Government has used these studies to justify
continuing their testing programme and to assert that the
tests are safe and contained.
Considering this, there is clearly a need for a comprehensive
exhaustive and independent scientific study prior to any further
tests. It is important to recognise that such a study does not
require the disclosure of militarily sensitive information
concerning the weapons themselves. Hence there is no con
flict between the needs of a robust scientific programme of
work and the perceived need to preserve militarily sensitive
information. Obviously, however, the authorities will need to
grant access to both sites but it must be emphasised that the
nature of the required programme does not conflict with the
interests of national security.
An environmental assessment of the atolls should apply, as a basic
minimum, the same criteria as applied to civilian sites in
relation to the short and long term possibilities of environmental
damage, radioactive escapes and needs for radiological protection.
In addition, this assessment should fully acknowledge that there
are inherent uncertainties in any predictive exercise and that
gaps exist in the data. Accordingly, a precautionary approach to
future environmental protection of the atolls and the wider
environment is required where full weight is given to scientific
uncertainty and ignorance of the long term consequences of the
It must be recognised by the French Government that the time
required for a genuine, comprehensive environmental assessment is
considerably greater than would be required for simple observation
of the tests at the time that they are carried out. The
comprehensive nature of the work required implies not only a long
lead time for prearation and logistics but also sufficient time to
execute the actual fieldwork.
It must also be recognised that a genuine environmental assessment
can only take place if there is no restriction on access to the
study areas. This must be facilitated by the French Government.
Additionally, the Authorities must be prepared to provide the most
detailed and recent data available on the structure and
geomorpholgy of the atolls together with the best data available
concerning the radioactive inventory present. Such information
would pose no threat to the national security of France but is
indispensible to the conduct of the study.
Finally, a multidisciplinary approach will be required. This is
likely to be a cost intensive process, a judgment supported by the
large sums of money required to conduct surveys of nuclear wepaons
production sites in the United States. The resourcing for the
programme will need to be supported with substantial financing
and logistic support from the French Government.
The following programme of work suggested in this document is
designed to take into account various of the concerns attached to
past and planned future weapons testing. It is designed to be a
repeatable exercise so that the effect of future testing can be
guaged against present environmental conditions. Central to the
concerns are the possibility of leakage of radionuclides from the
test sites. Hence the programme should address in detail the
possibility that leakage has already occurred and the possibility
that it might do so in the future bearing in mind the extremely
long half-life of many of the radioactive isotopes involved.It
must be recognised by the French Government that the scientific
integrity of any programme based solely upon observation at the
time of testing is highly suspect.
The programme should include inter alia the following
elements and a decision on whether to recommence testing or not
should be based on consideration of the results of this
programme, notwithstanding other political aspects (ie.
nuclear proliferation and related issues):
1) A full survey of the topography of the atoll using side scan
sonar and a remotely operated vehicle equipped with cameras and
testing instruments. This will establish the nature and occurrence
of any externally visible fissures. These may be present in the
basaltic parent material laid down by aerial and submarine
volcanic activity in which tests are conducted, or in the
overlying transition zone, dolomite and limestone strata. In turn
this will allow an evaluation, supplemented by empirical
measurement of actual concentrations of radionuclides, of the
potential for release of nuclides from the internal reef
2) A shallow seismic testing programme to establish the degree to
which the internal integrity of the atoll structure has been
compromised by previous testing. Such a programme would provide
some information on the degree of internal fissuring of the parent
and overlying materials and also contribute substantially to an
evaluation of the potential for radioactive leakage to occur from
the atoll structure. Together with data produced from the
visual/sonar inspection an evaluation is then possible of the
potential for serious structural changes in the atoll produced by
future weapons testing.
3) A comprehensive sampling campaign to investigate the
concentrations of radionuclides in fish, planktonic organisms,
sediments and coralline structures. Where feasible, samples will
also be taken from various locations outside the atoll to provide
data on exsisting background levels. This exercise will help to
establish whether radioactive materials have been released. It
will also give some indications of the quantities of radiation
released. By using coralline materials and analysing the
radionuclides present in the skeletal matrix, it may be possible
to establish the timing and approximate magnitude of releases of
radionuclides in the past.
4) An exhaustive determination of the hydrology of the atoll and
reef structure. This should determine the general water movement
through the various strata of the atoll. Knowledge of water
movements through the system, the interaction between fresh and
salt water in the reef system, the presence and size of freshwater
lens systems will allow a more precise estimate of the speed at
which radionuclides may be carried to the outside environment as a
result of failure of these substances to be contained within the
reef structure. In particular the hydrological relationships of
fissures and faults identified by 1 & 2 above and the remnant test
chambers and the boreholes leading to them is a high priority.
5) Following these evaluations, an epidemiological study
integrating retrospective and prospective elements should be
initiated to assess the local and regional health impacts of the
testing regime, past and present.
6) A comparison of the potential for radionuclide release from the
testing sites should be made with standards routinely enforced
forinitiated civil nuclear installations.
Should a decision to resume testing be taken after this pro
gramme is carried out and its results fully considered, it
should be agreed that the programme be repeated immediately ater
the test series has taken place.
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